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Thursday, 11 February 2016

Betfair Hurdle Preview, Newbury, Saturday 13th February

The Betfair Hurdle, run over 2 miles at Newbury, is as ‘deep’ a race as you’ll find anywhere outside the Cheltenham Festival. Indeed, winners at 50/1, 33/1, 20/1, 16/1, 14/1 and 12/1 – interestingly, accompanied by three favourites and a joint favourite – in the last ten renewals bear testament to just how competitive it is.

Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins sets punters a thorny puzzle by saddling five, including the ante post favourite, Blazer (4/1) but, as ever, we’ll be concentrating our efforts on the other end of the market.

The first one that takes our eye is Alan King’s 9-year-old Montbazon (50/1), who returns to action after an absence of 574 days. Regardless of any form considerations, the Barbury Castle trainer must surely have been able to find a less competitive race for a horse that has been off the course for over 18 months, so the fact that the Alberto Giacometti gelding lines up at all is interesting. The pick of his form is a third, beaten 1½ lengths, behind Lac Fontana in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival two seasons ago and, off an identical handicap mark, he clearly has a chance if able to reproduce that performance. His sole effort on heavy going was poor, so any more rain in the South East could scupper his chance.

Waxies Dargle (40/1) remains 4lb higher in the weights than when finishing third of 17, beaten 6 lengths, behind Old Guard in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November, but would still be quite a strong fancy for this had he not run a couple of ‘stinkers’ at Ascot and Leopardstown in the meantime. He was, frankly, too bad to be true on both occasions and it’s hard to imagine Noel Meade sending him across the Irish Sea again unless what was ailing him is now in the past. If it is, he could go very well at a daft price.

Selections: Newbury 3.35 Montbazon (50/1), Waxies Dargle (40/1)

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